Seeking family-friendly beach resort near NYC
August 30, 2010 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Do you know of a family-friendly beach hotel or resort within a few hours' driving distance from NYC?

I'm an NYC resident (and long-time mefi lurker) doing some very last-minute planning for a quick beach vacation. I'm finding lots of good posts about beaches accessible by train, but we're prepared to rent a car to get to the right place.

Searches for Jersey Shore hotels and resorts are making my head spin, so recommendations would be very much appreciated.

We're 2 adults and 1 child. Ideally, but maybe not realistically at this late date, we would find a resort or well-outfitted hotel that:

a) has a private beach (i.e., resort guests only; not too crowded)
b) has suites and/or a balcony for when the 6-yr-old goes to bed
c) is reasonably clean
d) has wireless access
e) offers dining onsite or nearby
f) is not more than a 3-hour drive from NYC.

Too much to ask? We'd love something with fantastic food, lots of character without being so Mom'n'Pop that it's run down, etc., but we're beyond being terribly picky and just want a few suggestions.

I'll check rates and availability of course, but please throw out any and all ideas you have. Thanks!
posted by whoiam to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The beach wasn't private, but I found Cape May to be really nice when I went a couple weeks ago. It was part of a work outing, so my boss footed the bill for a couple private cabanas for the day, which made it seem less crowded. He and his family stayed at Congress Hall hotel, which was right on the beach. It was very nice, so I'm sure it was clean. It had a nice pool, anyway. Knowing him, it had wifi (and I think I did get e-mails from him while he was there), and there were tons of restaurants nearby.
posted by supercres at 5:00 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Private beaches like that - dedicated to single hotels or resorts - are exceedingly rare in NJ. There may be a few spots and if so someone will know of them, but in general, the beaches in NJ are not restricted to private ownership except for a few beach clubs here and there (which tend not to be overnight resorts with dining included). There are B&Bs and inns that might provide what you need, but usually they are not right on the beach.

Even so, there are some very nice places to stay. You might look into Spring Lake, and Ocean City is a wonderful family destination, though not compactly organized as you seem to be looking for.

You may want to explore your options along the Connecticut shoreline instead.
posted by Miko at 5:17 PM on August 30, 2010

Are you tied to the hotel/resort idea or would a house be okay too? If so, you might want to look at Fire Island. The beaches aren't private but since everyone has to take the ferry (no cars on the island), they are not crowded. Fair Harbor is a community catering to families.

I don't know of specific houses or hotels, but search Craigslist. I would guess that September mid-week rentals would not be too terribly difficult to find.
posted by valeries at 5:35 PM on August 30, 2010

Ocean City is very family friendly (it's 'dry' - no bars or alcohol sold, but you can bring in what you want for private consumption). Sorry, I can't recommend a particular spot for you though.

If you're going this weekend, keep an eye on Earl though.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:44 PM on August 30, 2010

I second Ocean City! So lovely! We stayed at the Ocean 7 hotel over July 4th weekend and had a ball- it's right on the beach and the boardwalk, and there's even a pool.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:02 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Spring Lake, Avon, and the like are all within driving distance, and are quite tame.

NJ doesn't really have any more all-inclusive resorts or private beaches run by major chains.

I hate to sound like a pretentious snob, but it sounds like you're missing the "point" of the Jersey Shore. The nonstop party in Seaside depicted on MTV doesn't really exist, although there are quieter places if that's your thing (the "busier, louder" places are almost all family-safe though). B&Bs or house rentals are your best bet for lodging, and dining spots are typically ample, and spread throughout the town. Off the top of my head, Spring Lake has a very nice old-fashioned downtown.
posted by schmod at 6:18 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and NJTransit goes to Spring Lake if you don't feel like driving. We've had good luck with The Spring Lake Inn.

My point above was: The Jersey Shore is surprisingly uncommercialized. There are almost no national chains in the actual shore towns. A lot of the businesses have been around since the 1920s. I love it, but don't go expecting the amenities associated with a modern resort.
posted by schmod at 6:22 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Soundview Inn, out on the North Fork? Close to Greenport, which is nice to walk through. My husband's family lives up there and I'm always hoping my MIL will give us a stay there for our anniversary or something.

If you do go, take Plum Island by Nelson DeMille with you -- it takes place on the North Fork and the Soundview is mentioned repeatedly.
posted by MeiraV at 7:56 PM on August 30, 2010

I second Congress Hall Hotel in Cape May, NJ.
posted by pianoboy at 9:43 PM on August 30, 2010

This isn't a private resort, but a place I've visited many times that might fit the bill. I can't recommend a specific accommodation, but Long Beach Island (LBI) is a great choice that is about a 90 minute drive from NYC. There are many rental houses on the island, and because you are booking now, you'll probably be able to get a good deal on an un-rented property. LBI is pretty low key, and most of the restaurants and stores are very family friendly. There is a smallish, very kid friendly amusement park (Fantasy Island), a few theater groups that do shows for kids, and some free concerts as well. The beaches are gorgeous and most things are in walking distance. The Shipbottom and Surf City neighborhoods are especially good for kids, as everything is very close together.

I can also second The Spring Lake Inn, as recommended by schmod above. It's a nice spot, conveniently located, and Spring Lake is easy to navigate with little ones.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 10:31 PM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you all--I booked a place!

I might have come across as uptight and demanding in my post. The truth is that over 10 years in NYC we've hosted every Tom, Dick and Harry that's come through town, and the only traveling we've done has been for weddings, funerals or general obligatory visits to family. I was looking into house rentals on Fire Island a couple years ago when sudden loss of employment squashed that little dream (are you weeping yet?).

Thanks to the hive mind, it looks like my son will get his first beach vacation in memory; I won't have to feel guilty about taking a 3-day break before we head to another funeral (no joke); and we can still get back in time for school to start.

I'm more grateful than I can say without more bellyaching about the various [relative] crises that had me at wit's end trying to plan this.

When we get home I'll post about our experience in the hope it'll be useful to anyone else doing this search.

Many, many thanks again!
posted by whoiam at 8:06 AM on August 31, 2010

For anyone else's reference, google search for realtors in the shoretowns you wish to stay in. Tehy are usually the source for weekly beach house rentals and they are usually small realtor operations as opposed to large chains like Remax.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:59 AM on August 31, 2010

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